California, Colorado, New York propose ‘crash tax' bans

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 2/22/2011

State lawmakers from California to New York are pursuing changes to state laws that allow communities to charge a fee when police and fire personnel respond to vehicle accidents.

According to Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, 10 states prohibit accident-response fees. Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Tennessee have forbidden the fees.

More than 50 cities throughout California have ?crash taxes? in place that range from hundreds to thousands of dollars, depending on the incident.

Sacramento, CA, recently adopted a similar policy, which allows the fire department to bill nonresidents who get into wrecks within city limits. Other communities apply the charges to residents too.

City officials say it?s a fair way to recover their costs.

Sen. Tony Strickland, R-Moorpark, said the fee amounts to a double tax. He calls it unfair to charge people who live in surrounding communities but travel downtown five days a week for work.

?Californians, regardless of the city in which they live, work, or visit, should be awarded certain public safety protections,? Strickland said in a statement. ?They should be allowed to commute to work or travel on vacation without having to worry about a bill waiting for them when they get home.?

These concerns led him to introduce a bill that would prohibit local governments in the future from charging a fee or tax to any person, regardless of whether or not they live in the community, for the cost related to emergency responders.

Communities with crash taxes in place would not be affected by the rule.

The bill ? SB49 ? is in the Senate Public Safety Committee.

Across the country in New York, a state lawmaker is undertaking a similar effort. Currently, there is no state law that prohibits imposing additional fees and taxes on motorists involved in wrecks for emergency response services. In fact, the New York City Fire Department has proposed implementing fees that range from $365 to $490.

Sen. Eric Adams, D-Brooklyn, introduced a bill that would require legislative approval of any first-responder fee.

?We must not attempt to balance the budget on the backs of middle class New Yorkers who have the misfortune to be involved in a vehicular accident,? Adams stated.

The bill ? S2277 ? is in the Senate Transportation Committee.

In Colorado, a House bill would put a stop to local governments charging accident response fees. HB1059 would prohibit municipalities from charging fees. The bill is in the House Local Government Committee.

Editor?s Note: Please share your thoughts with us about the legislation included in this story. Comments may be sent to